“You brought me to another hideout?” Mirceo slurred. “We must be getting serious, then.”

“Don’t read anything into it. It isn’t like I can trace you home. Come on, I’m putting you to bed.”

“Which side do you sleep on, sweetheart? I’m flexible. If there’s not enough room, I invite you to sleep atop me.”

Mercy. “Even if we weren’t to remain solely friends, I wouldn’t take advantage of you when you’re in this condition.”

Mirceo cast him that crooked grin. “If I say pretty please?”

“You’d hate me in the morning.”

Growing serious, he said, “I could never hate you.”

Nor I you. Though Cas had wanted to. How much easier that would be. Even when he’d believed Mirceo had betrayed him, he’d still missed the vampire. “I told you that brew gains on you with every drop. It’s about to hit. You’ll soon be comatose.”

Mirceo squinted. “Are those holes in the walls?”

“Maybe a couple.” Cas’s earlier frustration seemed a lifetime ago. He could never have predicted what had been in store for him.

The vampire’s sweet, piercing bite . . .

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Keep control, Cas. He helped Mirceo out of his coat, then sat him down on the bed. “Arms above your head.” Mirceo dutifully complied, and Cas pulled his shirt off.

“I like it when you take care of me, demon.”

“You need someone to look out for you,” Cas said, then bit his tongue. I’m not going to be that male. He quickly added, “Because you often act like an unthinking child.”

“Fair point.” Mirceo leaned down and attempted to remove a boot, failed, then tried again.

Chuckling, Cas knelt to help him.

“Thanks. They seem damnably complex right now.”

Cas pulled them off. “Uh-huh.” He grabbed Mirceo’s ankles and tossed the vampire’s legs up onto the bed.

Mirceo sank back. “The pillow smells like Caspion.” He buried his face against it, inhaling deeply. When he looked at Cas again, his eyes flickered with desire. “My dreams will be filthy.” He couldn’t look more tempting. Reading his mind, Mirceo said, “You like the way I look in your bed.”

Where you belong. Inner shake. “Arrogant leech.” He pulled the covers up to Mirceo’s chin.

The vampire shoved them down to his waist. “Not a denial. Now that you know I’m yours, it’s not safe to ignore your instincts much longer.”

There was still hope. . . .

“We must fuck just to preserve your sanity.” He sighed. “The things I do for my ‘friends.’”

“Enough of that.”

Mirceo started shucking his pants. “Can’t sleep confined.”

Mercy! To distract himself, Cas snagged a blanket to cover the french doors against the coming light of dawn. They faced west, but he’d take no chances. Another blanket for the side window. Once he’d sun-proofed the room, he turned back.

Mirceo’s pants were on the floor, and he had the covers up to his waist again.

Thank gods. “You need to sleep.”

Relaxation had stolen over the vampire’s body, but he wasn’t ready to pass out yet. “Stay with me.”

“Should I read you a bedtime story too, leechling?”

“Do you have erotic ones in your repertoire? Perhaps an original.”

“You have an answer for everything.”

Mirceo waved at the blankets. “You really do care about me, don’t you?”

Cas pulled a chair up to the bed. “Because I don’t want my drunken vampire friend to fry under my watch?” He removed his own boots, then kicked back. He would sleep out on the deck tonight. Not in the bed with Mirceo. NOT in the bed.

“Aside from my parents and Mina, you’re the only person I have ever cared deeply about. After my mother and father were murdered, I fairly much hated everyone. Growing up in Dacia didn’t help matters.”

“Do you know who killed them?” Mirceo had said only that a cowardly royal had taken their lives.

“My uncle Stelian’s father beheaded them in their sleep.”

Was Cas better off not knowing his parents than to have lost them so brutally? “Why?”

“Millennia ago, a princess in our family cursed the Dacianos to infight and destroy ourselves until we crowned the rightful heir—Lothaire. For generations, Dacianos schemed and manipulated to seize the throne, and I’m sure my parents weren’t innocent.” Frowning to himself, he said, “I think Trehan hunted down Stelian’s murderous father to protect Mina and myself.”

“That all sounds insane.”

“Imagine raising a little girl under that threat. It’s why I’m so protective of Mina. We’ve had targets on our backs since we were born. And then, with our parents out of the way, I feared our uncles would circle us like sharks.”

“You were just fifteen.” At least no one had wanted to kill Cas when he’d been that age. “What did you do?”

“Turned into an angry stick-in-the-mud. I toed every line and never lowered my guard. I didn’t fuck for the first time until I was twenty.”

Cas couldn’t wrap his mind around this. “So you’ve only had ten years of partners.” His mood plummeted. A rake like Mirceo likely wouldn’t settle down for an eternity. A rake who hadn’t gotten the lead out never would. “And then what happened?”